Bipartisan Climate Caucus Asks EPA About CO2 Storage Permit Delays

Bipartisan Climate Caucus Asks EPA About CO2 Storage Permit Delays - Carbon Herald

Seven members of the House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus have penned an official letter to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), asking about the delays in Class VI well approvals. This type of well has been determined as suitable for CO2 storage and is set to play a vital role in the decarbonization of industry.

The letter reads: “…we write to call attention to the dismal number of Class VI well projects that have been deployed after successfully moving past the permitting process. We understand that the EPA is currently processing one hundred and eighty-one Class VI well permit applications alongside at least two state primary authority applications. Permitting delays are actively crippling U.S. efforts to deploy vital clean energy and carbon capture infrastructure alike.”

It continues by pointing out that only eight permits have been issued in the last 13 years with some taking up to six years to go throug the process. The bottomline in terms of operational projects is also striking – only two of the submitted projects are in operation even though around 50% are in various review stages.

The letter concludes with caucus members asking six questions, directed at the bottlenecks they have identified:

  1. What challenges is EPA facing in the permitting process for Class VI wells that may not be solved by continued private sector investment, or increased staff capacity?
  2. Beyond staffing needs, what are the most prominent reasons for permitting delays? What is EPA doing to prevent or streamline them?
  3. Are there workforce, hiring, data needs, or permitting reforms that should be addressed or prioritized by future legislation?
  4. What are the most frequent Requests for Additional Information (RAIs) that EPA returns to applicants during the Class VI well permitting process?
  5. What tangible progress has EPA made in reducing the timeline of Class VI well permitting and primacy applications to two years since the release of EPA’s last report to Congress in October 2022?
  6. Of the 1977 new staff hired by the EPA in 2023, how many full-time equivalents were hired to help process Class VI well permits and state primacy applications? What are the current unmet personnel needs by position type and function?

While the delays are significant, there has been some progress. In March 2023 the EPA announced the availability of $50 million in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to help states, Tribes, and territories to develop and implement Class VI Subterranean Injection Control (UIC) programs for wells.

Relevant: EPA To Provide $50M For Class VI Carbon Sequestration Wells

California has seen progress with California Resources Corporation and its carbon management business, Carbon TerraVault (CTV), announcing in December 2023 that the EPA released draft Class VI well permits for underground CO2 injection and storage in CTV’s 26-R reservoir located within the vault at the Elk Hills Field in Kern County, California. 

Several states now have primacy over the approval process, with Louisiana recently joining Wyoming and North Dakota.

Read more: EPA Releases Draft Class VI Permits For CO2 Injection And Storage In California

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